Substance use and abuse among older youth in foster care

Michael G. Vaughn, Marcia T. Ollie, J. Curtis McMillen, Lionel Scott, Michelle Munson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to explore prevalence and predictors of current and lifetime substance use, substance abuse disorder, and polysubstance use among older youth in foster care. Interviews were conducted with 406 17-year old youth (90% of those eligible) in one state's foster care system between December 2001 and June 2003. Forty-five percent of foster care youth reported using alcohol or illicit drugs within the last six months; 49% had tried drugs sometime during their lifetime and 35% met criteria for a substance use disorder. Having a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder and/or living in an independent living situation significantly increased the likelihood of current and lifetime substance use and disorder. A diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also predicted increased likelihood of polysubstance use and substance abuse disorder. In conclusion, older youth in the foster care system report similar levels of lifetime alcohol and illicit substance use when compared to the general adolescent population. However, rates of substance use disorder are high. Particularly at risk for both high rates of use and disorder are youth in independent living situations and youth with a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1929-1935
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Adolescents
  • Conduct disorder
  • Foster care
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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